It’s time to right the wrongs in women’s sport

CityPress - - The 'sorry' State Of Women's Sports - BRUCE DAVID­SON [email protected]­press.co.za

There’s no get­ting around it. Sportswomen are given a raw deal. It’s a frus­trat­ing re­al­ity be­ing dealt with ev­ery day and, while things may be chang­ing, it’s hap­pen­ing at a snail’s pace, which sim­ply isn’t good enough.

Hav­ing been in­volved in cham­pi­oning and pro­mot­ing women’s sport for more than 25 years, I’ve wit­nessed how women are side­lined over and over again, get­ting sig­nif­i­cantly less cov­er­age in the me­dia com­pared with their male coun­ter­parts.

Take a look at netball, for ex­am­ple. With­out the sus­tained sup­port of su­per­mar­ket gi­ant Spar, the na­tional team would sim­ply be nowhere. And while they at least have a sig­nif­i­cant spon­sor, could the ma­jor­ity of South Africans name the cur­rent cap­tain of the Proteas side? Yet we all know who Siya Kolisi and co are.

It’s the hugely in­spir­ing Bongi Msomi, by the way.

Msomi has the type of story and back­ground that makes her the per­fect South African role model for both girls and boys, and that should be cel­e­brated. She’s gone from a town­ship in ru­ral KwaZu­luNatal to Eng­land’s pres­ti­gious Su­per­league.

Are South Africans aware of that? Most prob­a­bly not. They prob­a­bly also don’t know that she was in ac­tion with the South African side that swept all com­pe­ti­tion aside at the Di­a­mond Chal­lenge, which came to an end in Polok­wane this week­end.

The crowds at the Lim­popo tour­na­ment were en­thu­si­as­tic and vo­cal, but the venue was by no means packed to the rafters.

That’s be­cause the tal­ented women in ac­tion are not widely recog­nised like their male equiv­a­lents are be­cause their achieve­ments are not high­lighted.

It’s one of those im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tions where more in­vest­ment is needed to at­tract me­dia at­ten­tion while more me­dia fo­cus is needed to draw in the spon­sors. As an ex­am­ple, I am part of the team tasked with try­ing to get as much cov­er­age for the Spar Proteas as pos­si­ble. But re­sources are lim­ited. Me­dia houses would sim­ply never use their bud­gets to send jour­nal­ists to next year’s Netball World Cup – the pin­na­cle of the sport for any netball player.

Now, faced with the prospect of lit­tle to no cov­er­age for the na­tional side that’s rep­re­sent­ing the largest women’s sport in this coun­try, do we send a team of me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives to cover the tour­na­ment, or do we use that money to fund a vis­it­ing overseas team for a lo­cally based se­ries?

Sure, that will af­ford the Proteas much-needed in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, but will it grow the game in terms of ex­po­sure to po­ten­tial spon­sors?

What we should be ask­ing is: Why aren’t the spon­sors in­ter­ested to be­gin with? This is some­thing that I was stunned by when I man­aged the great­est woman ten­nis player this coun­try has pro­duced – Amanda Coet­zer – for 10 years.

She was hugely suc­cess­ful (ris­ing to num­ber three in the world), af­fa­ble and had all the qual­i­ties of some­one you’d think would be hugely mar­ketable. Yet, be­cause she was a woman, we al­ways strug­gled.

Granted, this isn’t a prob­lem unique to South Africa. Glob­ally, mind-sets have to change. There are cer­tain coun­tries where these at­ti­tudes are chang­ing faster than oth­ers, but there is still a long, long way to go.

What we need in South Africa is a bet­ter part­ner­ship be­tween gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rates. We mustn’t fool our­selves – gov­ern­ment has big­ger pri­or­i­ties than sport and more ur­gent prob­lems to sort out like ed­u­ca­tion, health ser­vices and cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

I be­lieve cor­po­rates are the ones who need to up their game. Spar has openly ap­pealed to oth­ers, say­ing it doesn’t want to be the lone sup­porter of women’s sport out there. How­ever, the call seems to have landed on deaf ears.

I must make men­tion here of sup­port shown by Su­perS­port, par­tic­u­larly to netball, in broad­cast­ing in­ter­na­tional se­ries as well as the an­nual Bru­tal Fruit Netball Premier League and sign­ing with Netball SA as its of­fi­cial broad­caster.

With this back­ing, the sport is at least start­ing to get a larger fol­low­ing. The more the coun­try sees our re­mark­able sportswomen in ac­tion, the more things will start to change.

My sin­cere hope for us in South Africa it that Banyana Banyana’s phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess in achiev­ing what their male coun­ter­parts have failed to do will cre­ate a new level of ex­cite­ment in the me­dia around our fe­male ath­letes.

Let this spark of in­ter­est be a turn­ing point, a change of di­rec­tion and a right­ing of pre­vi­ous wrongs.

PHOTO: REG CALDECOTT / GALLO IM­AGES

SHE’S GOT IT Proteas netball cap­tain Bongi Msomi

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